This is a post about coming out as an artist. It’s also about being who you inevitably are.
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I describe myself in the header of this website as an “improviser.” And it’s true: I’ve been performing improv comedy since 2004. Plus, since I’m a big believer that life is in fact improvisation, you could say I’ve actually been improvising my entire life. And that’s really what I mean, in my header – that I’m an improviser, all the time… onstage and off.
But lately, I’ve been wondering: What if I’m not only an improviser? What if I’m also… a comedian?
Now, to those of you who aren’t in comedy, this may not sound like a big distinction: improviser versus comedian. “What’s the big deal?”, you might be wondering. On a technical level, the difference is that instead of just being someone who gets up with a group of people and improvises comedy shows on the spot, I might also be interested in… stand up? Storytelling, a la David Sedaris and his ilk? Writing sketch comedy? Writing for television and/or film? Performing for those media? Some or all of the above?
But beyond technicalities: Making this shift, from self-identifying as an improviser to self-identifying as a comedian, feels like opening a door to a whole new part of myself, and I’m realizing that door has been staring me in the face for an awfully long time.
Do you have a door like that?
What’s keeping you from going through?
The New York Effect
For years, I was so content to do improv. My growing, current interest in these other areas of comedy probably has a lot to do with how hard it’s been for me to get a foothold in the improv community here in NY. Which isn’t to say that pursuing any other form of comedy is any easier, though writing, storytelling and stand-up are all things I can do alone. And I’m not saying I want to do all of these things instead of improv. I’m just suddenly hungry for different kinds of opportunities.
But is the hunger sudden? Or does it just feel intense, because I’ve been denying it for so long?
When I think back, I can see that I’ve actually had a larger interest in comedy for a long time – I just haven’t let myself feel it, or pursue it. I’ve written it off, for some reason, as too impractical, or not something I’d be good at…I’m not sure which. Maybe both? Maybe after a year and a half in New York, surrounded by so many other people who are passionately pursuing comedy as a career, it’s finally clicking for me that this is something I could actually do. (Get paid for? Maybe not. But do – sure.)
(And why not hope to get paid for it? Why not actually work toward that? Why does that feel so taboo?)
“Oh Yeah, I’ve Kind of Always Been Into This”
I remember back when I first got involved in improv. It was around the same time that I was reading The Artist’s Way — my bible, and a must-read for any creatively inclined human being. So I was allowing my artistic interests out to play for the first time in a while, and I found myself renting movies about comedy, and reading about comedy… being interested in comedy. I didn’t know why, and then, through a series of events, I got involved with improv, and I never looked back.
Lately, I’ve become obsessed with comedy podcasts, especially WTF with Marc Maron — in which he does long, soulful, funny interviews with other comedians, about comedy, and about being a comedian. I listen to this podcast and I laugh, and I feel less alone. And I recognize myself in his guests.
And I’m remembering that a couple of years ago, I took a workshop called “How to Quit Your Job and Work in the Arts,” with Laura Zam (a wonderful teacher and performer based in Washington, DC). And we did a visioning exercise, and I found myself declaring that one of my truest dreams was to be on Saturday Night Live. Wha?! Where did that come from? That wasn’t something I went around allowing myself to feel. But if I allowed myself to dream…
Incidentally, in the same visioning exercise, I owned up to a second dream, of wanting a nationally syndicated column. And, third, to wanting to split my time between New York City and the sea. I came home from that workshop and told Jordan, “It’s time to move.” Six months later, we were living in New York. (It worked out well that Jordan’s own dream, for most of his life, was to live here.)
Why don’t we allow ourselves these dreams? Why do we judge them, and ourselves, to the point of nearly extinguishing them? Why don’t we go for it?
Connecting the Threads
I’ve also been reflecting, in the past year, on the fact that I’m a writer, and I perform improv comedy… but I’ve never connected those two threads, and tried comedy writing.
Well, today I signed up for a 3-week sketch-writing intensive at the People’s Improv Theater (aka the PIT), and I am PSYCHED. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about something. I feel like I’m going to camp, and I get to play.
I am filling my journal with comedy ideas, and I cannot wait to turn them into something other people can see.
I’m inspired by my friend, Christa, who’s slowly but steadily, and with great love and creativity, building her business, Compass Yoga, here in NYC. Teaching yoga, and running a yoga business, are a big change from her current day job. Watching her pursue this path is like watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly: inevitable and beautiful. “Inevitable,” though, only because she’s keying in to what it is she truly, deeply wants, and going for it. So then it seems “inevitable,” because it seems so right.
Signing up for this sketch-writing class today felt like that kind of inevitable for me.
I don’t know where this path will lead, but I’m sure as hell excited to find out!
But enough about me.
What about you?
What are you already doing, that you should do more of?
What doors are staring you in the face?
Who are you, inevitably?